Egypt’s first post-revolution presidential poll will technically begin on Friday, as millions of Egyptians living abroad begin casting ballots for Egypt’s next head of state. Egyptians residing overseas, who number between five and six million, will cast votes for one of 13 approved candidates in Egypt’s first presidential election since the ouster early last year of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak. Many analysts say that Egyptian expatriates were not given enough time to study the candidates’ various electoral programmes, noting that they would begin voting only 12 days after the official launch of presidential campaigning. Many expats, meanwhile, are finding it difficult to follow candidates’ respective campaigns from abroad, or don’t possess the national identification cards required to cast ballots. After 30 years of Mubarak-era autocracy, during which most national elections were rigged, fair and democratic elections are a novelty for Egypt. The idea that their voices will actually count has stirred up strong feelings in many Egyptians, who espouse opinions as diverse as the candidates they are expected to vote for. And, according to various Ahram Online surveys, Egyptians living abroad are no different.
Those expat Egyptians who want the application of Islamic Law in Egypt will vote for Islamist candidates, while those who do not support the Islamist trend – or are unsatisfied with its recent performance in parliament – will likely avoid any candidate of an Islamist background. On the other hand, many Egyptians abroad also view former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa and Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq as “remnants” of the former regime, while others see socialist contenders Hamdeen Sabbahi and Khaled Ali as revolutionary candidates. All this being said, however, the fact remains that of the five or six million Egyptians living abroad, only some 587,000 are registered to vote.